PCUSA Congregation Ministry helps inmates record video messages for their children

“This program has had the greatest impact, not only on the incarcerated, but on their children, of anything I’ve seen. It shows great promise of breaking that cycle.”

Lawuan Shivers is doing a life sentence for a bank robbery, but videotaping a Christmas message to his 9-year-old son brought him to tears.

“It felt really good to be able to give him a personal conversation. It’s a real blessing,” said Shivers, who has not seen his son in eight years, and will not be up for parole until 2042.

Shivers, 35, is one of about 50 inmates at Cimarron Correctional Facility who recorded Christmas messages to their children Monday as part of the Oklahoma Messages program, the primary ministry of Redeeming the Family.

Redeeming the Family was started this year by Cheri Fuller at First Presbyterian Church in Edmond as a way to maintain relationships between children and their incarcerated parents.

“It’s devastating to incarcerated mothers, and fathers, to lose contact with their children, and the children also are heartbroken,” Fuller said.

“Through these videos, the children see the love in the eyes of their parents, and it’s transforming.”

She said about 80 percent of inmates never get visits from their children.

Some 400 prisoners in eight prisons statewide will participate in the program this holiday season. The videos are scheduled to arrive before Christmas.

Before the taping, Fuller met in small groups with prisoners and coached them on what for some could be a daunting task: speaking into a video camera for their children to watch.

“You have the daddy love that they need,” she told them.

“There’s nothing like looking into the TV screen and hearing their daddy say, ‘I love you. I’m proud of you.’ ”

She stressed that each father should tell his children that he is safe, and that he, not the children, is responsible for his incarceration.

“Kids feel guilt. They blame themselves. This releases them,” Fuller said.

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